Objectives: Powerful Geography is a research initiative to improve the curriculum guidance and professional development available for geography and earth science teachers in grades 6-12. The research will advance knowledge of how professional development can enable teachers' use of data to select and convey subject matter for a more inclusive geography education. Powerful Geography adds conceptual rigor to professional development by elevating the role of professional geographers, large-scale assessment data, and knowledge of student aspirations. Prior research in STEM education suggests the importance of understanding student aspirations and attitudes to foster interest in STEM and STEM careers. The results of this research will develop geography teachers as curriculum leaders who make instructional decisions informed by the diverse needs, interests, and job prospects of students.
Methodology: The National Center for Research in Geography Education (NCRGE) has developed a four-year research process involving state-based networks of researchers, teachers, professional geographers, and employers. NCRGE staff are actively writing grant applications to fund this work.
YEAR 1: The first year is dedicated to foundational data collection and analysis. Participating teachers will be trained to administer an online student survey in their classes during the school year. The survey will acquire data on students' life and career aspirations and attitudes about social and environmental issues. A second research component will involve interviews with geographers and their employers whose professional backgrounds relate to the major categories of student aspirations. Interview analysis will focus on identifying subject matter that is important for work and civic participation. Using prior NSF-funded research, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Geography Assessment will be used to identify pedagogical and curricular factors that associate with varying levels of student achievement in geography.
YEARS 2-4: The second, third and fourth years will feature production of the Powerful Geography professional development programs. Each year more states and teachers will be added. Programs will be developed through a design-based research process involving the teachers leading discussions of how to create an inclusive and accessible Powerful Geography lesson using data and findings from the student, workforce, and NAEP studies. As teachers implement their lesson plans during the school year, they will administer the student survey as a pretest/posttest to determine the extent the Powerful Geography approach supports more inclusive and accessible instruction. Evidence of the approach's effectiveness will include statistically significant gains in student affect that are superior to the results of the analysis of 'baseline control' student datasets from prior years. The findings will inform revisions and refinements to the professional development programs through the third year of the project.
YEAR 4: The final year of the project will feature dissemination of the Powerful Geography programs.